The NHL: Where Hands Are More Valuable Than Heads? Instigating With A Visor Penalty Hypocritical


The visor debate rages on, as the Ottawa Senators have been the victim twice in two games of the infamous instigating with a visor rule, which when you think about it, is one of the most hypocritical rules going.

Who is the instigator – Phillips with both gloves on while taking a punch? Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Let me get this straight:

The penalty for instigating a fight while wearing a visor is an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Part of the criteria for being assessed an instigator penalty, according to the NHL Rulebook is

"An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria:  distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats."

According to the logs of, in the last 105 NHL fights, there were 9 instigator penalties assessed, for a total of 8.6% of the time.

So, the player wearing a visor who is going to fight must remove his visor or risk an additional minor penalty.  But doesn’t the act of removing the visor in many cases show “menacing attitude or posture”?, which is one of the criteria for assessing the instigator in the first place.  Seems like a catch-22 in my eyes.  Given the relative infrequency of an instigator being assessed, why would any player take off their visor to risk getting an instigator penalty to avoid the second penalty?

With a less than 10% chance of being assessed an instigator penalty in the first place, and the potential for the act of removing the visor itself to increase that chance, why on earth would anyone do it?

Never mind the fact that on Friday night when Chris Phillips got his “instigator” penalty, that Micheal Haley‘s gloves were off almost before Phillips even turned to confront him, and Phillips’ second glove didn’t even come off until the “fight” was 15 second old.  So who was the instigator in that one?

Which brings me to the next issue, of why the penalty exists in the first place.  The only reason I can see is that a visor could hurt a combatant’s hand in a fight if he were to punch the visor.  Well, in many fights, most punches thrown actually hit helmet and not face, so what difference does a visor make?  Some leagues want to make the fight stop as soon as a player loses his helmet in a fight, to protect him from the potential to get taken down and land on his head.

So it appears that the NHL wants its players who take the extra measure of security so that they don’t end up like Chris Pronger or Marc Staal to put themselves at risk when they feel they have to step up and protect a teammate.

Patrick Wiercioch, for example, saw a teammate get shoved from behind into the boards and came in to stand up for his teammate.  Wiercioch had 6 penalty minutes this season and 1 previous professional fight, stepped up to challenge Adam McQuaid, who has 54 professional fights in his career. If Wiercioch had taken his helmet off prior to the fight, he puts himself at greater risk of serious injury especially against a more experience pugilist.

All because the league wants to protect a players’ knuckles?  How about their heads?  I understand player put themselves at risk in a fight and the debate about banning headshots while allowing fighting will rage on.  But to me, the instigating with a visor rule seems hypocritical.